Indonesia could balance conservation and development objectives – and potentially triple the economic benefits derived from key orangutan habitats– by adopting Green Economy initiatives, according to an 18-month study released today by theUnited Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) under its Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP).
Orangutans and the Economics of Sustainable Forest Development in Sumatra, which was produced at the request of the Republic of Indonesia, examines specific sites in Sumatra that host significant populations of critically endangered orangutans, and offers concrete options for alternative use.
Under the UN climate convention, governments are negotiating a mechanism to provide payments for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation plus additional forest "activities" (REDD+), with the aim of halving deforestation by 2020. By investing in these sustainable development programs, those sites in Sumatra could potentially turn land valued at $7,832 per hectare for oil palm production into protected forest that earns $22,090 per hectare through carbon offset programs.
Local communities could see economic benefits rise by as much as 71 percent through programs that promote biodiversity and sustainable development.
“Prioritizing investments in sustainable forestry including REDD+ projects can, as this report demonstrates, deliver multiple Green Economy benefits and not just in respect to climate, orangutan conservation and employment in natural resource management,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director.
“The report indicates that in Aceh and in North Sumatra there has been a reported 50 per cent decline in water discharges in as many as 80 per cent of rivers as a result of deforestation—losses that have serious implications for agriculture and food security including rice production and human health,” he added.
The study was produced by GRASP, in association with PanEco, the World Agrofrestry Centre, and Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari (YEL), and drew on the work of more than 60 experts and contributors. Funding was supplied by the Government of Norway and the Government of Monaco.
Orangutans and the Economics of Sustainable Forest Development in Sumatra carefully examines land-use issues at two pilot sites on the island of Sumatra: Tripa swamp and the mountain forests of Batang Toru, both of which host significant populations of critically endangered Sumatran orangutans. The assessment quantifies the economic trade-offs between unsustainable and sustainable forms of land use, and concludes that revenues for local communities and regional governments could actually rise if a conservation model is favored over a deforestation model.
If not, the report predicts that orangutans in those areas could become locally extinct by 2015.